A MEASURE of the nation's patriotic tremors since the terrorist attacks of September could be taken from the visitors' register and the cash register at the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, where Mary Pickersgill made the anthem-inspiring flag that flew over Fort McHenry back in the day.
Sally Johnston, director of the Flag House museum, has seen a surge in visitors and sales of flags since 9-11. In September and October, the museum counted 2,236 visitors, up from 1,472 in the same two-month period last year. Admissions and sales of flags and other items totaled $17,368 in September and October, an increase of nearly $10,000 over the same period last year.
"People seem to want to satisfy a need to do something patriotic," Johnston says. "And not by doing something frivolous. The people who've been coming here seem to feel good about getting in touch with the history in this house. I never thought of this place as a shrine, but I guess it is."
Some have made the pilgrimage through the Internet.
Abbi Wicklein-Bayne, assistant director, says the Flag House's Web site has recorded more than 70,000 hits since 9-11. "And," she adds, "that's as many as we had in the year and a half before that."
I think I know what William Donald Schaefer sees as that problem overlooked by the O'Malley administration -- the mysterious "it" that he refused to identify in an interview on the eve of his 80th birthday.
"It" is apparently a trash-strewn alley in Southwest Baltimore, behind Sargeant Street. Despite inferences that it was some kind of I-know-something-you-don't-know secret, Schaefer, mayor past, apparently conveyed this matter to Martin O'Malley, mayor present, and prodded him to get the mess cleaned up.
This description of the "it" thing trickled out of a birthday party for Schaefer on Friday night at D'Alesio's in Little Italy. Paul Oliver, the restaurant owner, invited his pal, O'Malley, to show up and make a little peace with Schaefer, who feels left out of the inner loop after endorsing him in the 1999 city primary.
"Oh, my God, look who's here," Schaefer said when O'Mayor stepped into the room.
Oliver handed O'Mayor a peach pie -- from the Gucci Giant in Pikesville! -- and O'Mayor gave it to Schaefer. He also gave him a birthday card.
Oliver says both men were good-natured during the encounter, with a deferential O'Malley saying, "I'm really trying," and Schaefer saying, "I know you are."
As for the mess in Southwest: Watch this space.
Regarding The Wind and the Lion, a 1975 film, with Sean Connery and Candice Bergen, recommended in this space last month (TJI, Oct. 10), Linda Hazelip of Edgewood writes:
"I was wondering when someone would find the parallel between the movie and life today. My husband, Don, is the Marine carrying the American flag [in an attack scene]. At the time, he was a Marine stationed in Rota, Spain, when a group from the barracks was recruited to appear in the film. They were primarily the MPs and security guards for the base. I was pregnant at the time, but I still accompanied the group to Seville and Almeria for the filming, the only woman in the group. It was a once in a lifetime experience I will never forget."
Driving up the JFX on Monday night, we had to admire the old Stieff Silver Co. sign, illuminated in red, white and blue as part of the nation's post-9-11 tributes. We've been told to expect a switch soon, however, to the usual holiday colors of red and green. The latter is a tradition that has been around for years, started by the Stieff family when they owned the business, and continued, we're happy to say, by Baltimore's leading redeveloper-of-old-buildings, Bill Struever.
Yankees' missed chance
A friend, and frustrated dreamer, writes:
"One of my favorite moments in sports is after the final Stanley Cup game, when the losing team lines up at the blue line and waits to shake hands with the winners. Puts everything right somehow, win or lose.
"Can you imagine if, Sunday night, after that final run scored, the Yankees had waited a few minutes, walked out of their dugout, perhaps behind an American flag carried by their batboy, and just stood there joining in the applause? It wouldn't have been necessarily for the Diamondbacks, but for this great World Series, for the game of baseball, for America! You can imagine, after a few minutes the Diamondbacks would have noticed and come over for some post-Stanley Cup-like handshakes. A few hugs. Now that would have been a memorable moment! Maybe even started a Series tradition.
"I almost thought something like that was going to happen, the way the Yanks sat in their dugout, just watching, not wanting to leave. But the moment passed, and too bad."
Meals on Wheels help
Regarding Monday's column on the curtailing of daily deliveries of hot food to homebound elderly in rural Garrett County:
Adine Brode, of the Area Agency on Aging, can't say for sure why Garrett's Meals on Wheels program was not selected for an important grant that constituted more than 25 percent of its annual budget. But Brode notes that the National Meals on Wheels Foundation and the Philip Morris Co., which had helped fund the program the past three years, received 350 requests for $13 million in grants. Whatever the reason, the shortfall has forced Brode's agency to cut deliveries from five days a week to three.
For those wishing to make a donation -- and not a long-distance phone call from Baltimore to get an address -- here it is: Garrett County Area Agency on Aging, 104 E. Center St., Oakland, Md. 21550.